Tibet 1986 and Beyond

Tibetan travel & study

Tibetan Mountains བོད་རི་

Guess what, Tibet is almost entirely mountainous. Thus, it seems appropriate to do a post just on mountain pictures. Note that the eastern mountains are nearly as high as the central part of the country. Most valleys in the east are at around 10,000 feet and narrow. Central valleys are usually 12,000 feet and wider in general. The east also gets much more rainfall.

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to go out west. I missed the chance to circumambulate Mount Kailash/Kang Rinpoche & Lake Manasarover/Tso Mapam, holy to three religion. This is kind of a merit trifecta as one never knows who is right. Also, I wanted to see Guge, Tsaparang, Dawa Dzong.

East Tibet 1986

These are barley fields early in the growing season. Barley is one of the few crops that thrive in the higher altitudes along with root vegetables. Note the glacier.

Looking down from Ma Kho རྨ་ཁོ་ 1986, East Tibet.

This is way up there, probably 16,000 feet, maybe higher. You can see where the trees thin. This is taken from the Lakang, pass house. See post on Derge to Drolma Lhakhang. To give you a sense of perspective, the white dots on the right are sheep.

Tibetan village on west bank of Dri Chu 1986

We crossed the river in yak skin boats, horses swam along side. It was also legally treacherous as this is the border between Tibet Autonomous Region (autonomous in name only). The boatmen did not want to take us without authorization. In broken Tibetan we indicated that it was OK as we showed them that the Chinese visas were good for all of China. It took a while but it worked.

Looking up a tributary of the Dri Chu (Yangtze) 1986

This was a wonderful diversion. It was a wrong turn but we saw some great scenery and met some folks in a very remote village. At this point, we were probably several days walk to the nearest tiny road.

Tashilumpo Monastary Central Tibet 1985

You can see the wider, drier, and higher valleys of Central Tibet. The Tashilumpo Monastery, seat of #2 Lama Panchen Lama, is largely intact thanks to Zhou Enlai. He is responsible to saving many important places all over China and Tibet from destruction during the Cultural Revolution.

Outside Gyantze 1985

Gyantze (central Tibet) is in a wide valley. This is a nearby monastery. Its condition is typical of just about every monastery regardless of how remote.

Chongye, Valley of the Kings Central Tibet 1985

This is an attempt to replicate the perspective of a photograph in Richardson & Snelgrove’s book “A Cultural History of Tibet”. These are the tombs of the pre-Buddhist Bon-po Tibetan kings. They date from the 700’s and before.

Chongye Valley 1985

This picture looks north up the valley. Primary crops here are barley and hemp (for rope, really).

Lhasa valley 1985

We were on pilgrimage called Sonegisa. One departs in the afternoon from Drepung Monastery, sleeps part way up the mountain, and completes the hike to the peak in the morning. This is a view of the Kyi Chu, Lhasa River, from a hermitage above Drepung. Note how the river wanders given the new geology of the Himalayas.

Hermatage above Drepung 1985

Same building as above from path.

Lhasa Valley 1985

Above is the last leg of Sonegesa. Unfortunately, this is as far as we got. Maybe we earned a bit of merit. As far as I know, we were the first westerners to participate in this pilgrimage.

Road to Samye Monastary 1985

Samye Monastery is set back from the Bramaputra River. The sand dunes are extensive and the river wanders a great deal at this point.

Pass to Nepal 1985

This picture was taken on the way to Nepal. It is a real border. In a very short time one goes from a barren 15-16,000 foot pass to a lush tropical rain forest.

East Tibet road. 1986

We traveled overland from Chengdu, Sichuan to Lhasa. This was a typical pass. The road is often carved into the mountain – one lane, sometimes plowed, traveled on Chinese made trucks that look like they were manufactured in the 1930s. If we were lucky, Frank and I rode in the cab. Fortunately, hitchhiking was not that hard given that this was a major “highway”.

That is it for the mountains. This post is longer than anticipated but the pictures seemed so attractive.


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